Oxfam responds to devastating mudslide in Sierra Leone

Communities affected by the mudslide around Lumley in the west end of Freetown. Oxfam

Oxfam is providing clean water and hygiene kits to survivors of Monday’s mudslide on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

More than 300 people have died, and an estimated 3,000 people have been made homeless by a mudslide in Sierra Leone, which was caused by heavy rains. People are being moved to response centers set up in local schools and police stations, but the Sierra Leone Office of National Security has expressed serious concerns about the health situation, warning that water and sanitation must be urgently addressed in order to mitigate the risk of a cholera epidemic.

“We saw mass destruction – people were pulling bodies out with their bare hands,” said Daniel Byrne, part of the Oxfam team that visited the worst affected areas. “We didn’t see any survivors from the homes that had been submerged. Neighbors have been taking in people who have lost their homes. We spoke to one person who has taken 30 people into their home which has just three rooms.”

The areas hit are some of the poorest in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Water and sanitation in homes is at best very basic, but at worst nonexistent. Overcrowding is a serious health risk and a potential breeding ground for the spread of disease.

“The disaster has left thousands of extremely poor people without a home,” said Thynn Thynn, Oxfam’s Sierra Leone country director. “The city experiences floods every year but not on this scale. Oxfam is working with its partners in Freetown to help survivors and prevent any outbreaks of diseases."

Oxfam is helping households amidst concerns that continued heavy rains, overcrowding and inadequate water and sanitation systems will leave people extremely vulnerable to outbreaks of cholera and other diseases.  

When disasters strike, Oxfam and our partners on the ground need to be ready to respond.


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